With the regular season starting in less than two days, let’s have a look at what we noticed from the New Orleans Pelicans during training camp and the exhibition schedule.
Down two starters, injury ridden regular season kickoffs set to continue.
First, news emerged Solomon Hill would miss 6-8 months with a hamstring injury before the training camp even began, and more recently, newly acquired guard Rajon Rondo is out 4-6 weeks after a sports hernia surgery. Hill’s injury was a hit; however, the Rondo injury is a bit more manageable with New Orleans’ depth at the guard spot.
Even so, what will be lacking is the on-court leadership factor. Media Day proved this Pelican teams looks to Rondo as the leader, making this more of a setback than just losing his playing abilities. Now the question is – what will Head Coach Alvin Gentry do will the free guard spot?
The two obvious options would be to either move Jrue Holiday back down into the point-guard role and incorporate a new off-ball guard, or start Ian Clark at the point to keep Holiday in a similar system to what he would run with Rondo. Either way, the Pelicans’ opening stretch of the season, with 8 of 12 on the road, will be a rough one without a defined small forward and the veteran leadership of a proven floor general.
Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins will often be used in wing/guard roles.
Although this is not a shock to locals, it will still be interesting to see how this plays out after Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins having an entire offseason together to hone certain skills. This guard/wing setting for Davis and Cousins may slow ball movement, resulting in more isolation basketball and ill-advised shots to start the season, but once run with efficiency, it could be deadly.
With the size of both superstars, there is an obvious need to utilize this asset in the post, yet the ability to do that along with stretching the floor times, especially in transition settings, is a distinct advantage. To be frank, New Orleans may barely have the shooters necessary to run an ideal offense centered around two bigs. However, their ability to coexist, draw defenders outside and wreak havoc in the paint will pose well if the supporting cast can develop the requisite consistency.
Reliable option at SF has yet to emerge.
Preseason averages presumable options at the Small Forward position (via NBA.com Advanced Stats):
Dante Cunningham – 3.0 PPG, 2.7 RPG and 0.7 AST (22.8 MPG)
Darius Miller – 6.7 PPG, 1.3 RPG and 0.3 AST (18.8 MPG)
E’Twaun Moore – 4.0 PPG, 3.7 RPG and 2 AST (22.3 MPG)
I think this speaks for itself.
Ball movement is questionable.
Focusing on the last preseason game against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Pelicans totaled a disturbing 14 assists on 38 made field goals. Alvin Gentry commented post game that “it’s a red flag,” going on to add that the team has too much isolation going on. Of those fourteen, four came from rotation guard Jordan Crawford.
Moving forward, with two looming voids in the starting lineup, whoever is chosen to fill those roles must provide an outlet for the core in addition to seeing the floor, making the extra pass. For assistant coach Chris Finch’s strategy to carry the load while Rondo misses at least a month, the Pelicans offense must make quick, decisive passes for the offense to stay afloat.
Holiday has yet to find his full rhythm on the court.
One could argue this bullet, but many would like to see more. Through four preseason games, Jrue Holiday averaged 14.7 points, 2.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 23.4 minutes per game. In addition, Holiday shot a disappointing 31 percent from three-point range.
Yes, this is almost a new team – and it shows. Although Holiday is seen as one of the franchise centerpieces, especially after recently signing a new 5-year, $126 million contract, the guard seems to still be finding his way. Holiday does look to have more success off the ball and the statistics from last season confirm it. The only true statistical knock is his assist rate. Even when Rondo controlled the court during preseason, we saw Jrue directing the team in second unit rotations.
With that said, the Pelicans need him to create more in order to achieve greater success. Not far off, New Orleans should get used to at least 15 points and five assists from Holiday consistently once he finds rhythm in this system.